October 2019

Will Reports:  Up by the second seat on the Top Track which we call The Memory Corner, a small sign has been placed. We have several memorial trees planted nearby in remembrance of people who have helped us over the years. A good spot to sit and reflect. The new Kanuka Steps (on the Bottoms Track) are just about finished, thanks to David Burt of KRB (Keep Richmond Beautiful). We still have to put in place some netting to deter dogs and children talking shortcuts over the newly planted. More plants have been planted bringing the total plantings to about 980 for the season. Food must be getting short as the weka are turning over the rat traps in search of catches or the bait. We have started placing steel pins either side of the tunnels to hold them in place.  Some tunnels have been rolled downhill for 50 or so metres.  Thanks to Olsen’s for a new supply of baits for our traplines in the gully.  Completed new steps on the Bottoms Track. Replanting has been done around the new work but still a dog and children barrier to do to try and stop the plants being damaged. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Very quiet month with 2 hedgehogs in total. No sign of any rats or other nasties. Did live trap a very large cat, obviously being domestic was released without injury. Numerous tui’s about and the occasional sighting of a Kereru. Not a lot though. No recent sightings of Weka’s nor have I heard any calling. Not too worried about that though as they do move about. Tame quail still about and come to the grain I put out. As do the ducks. All for now,  Alastair. Alison Nicholl Reports: I check the traps every week and recently there have been more Weka pulling the traps to the end of the tunnels and this can only be achieved if there is a rat in  the trap, but no remnant for me to count so I could assume there have been more rats??? Bryan Riley Reports: Hi Will,  Only one rat caught this month.  Great to see all the young plantings doing so well. Cheers, Bryan Mike Oliver Reports: (from the fire lookout ridge): No catches.For The Gully Lines – DoC200 & DoC150’s:  1 rat. This is a view of part of the gully looking up towards Grassy Saddle. Between the white lines shows...
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September 2019

Will Reports: The new plantings have slowed down but we put in over a 100 plants this month. We also dug out the natives around the kanuka tree nearby McGlashen’s Dam in preparation for the new steps around the kanuka. These small natives were planted out elsewhere. We were fortunate to have permission to collect some native seedlings of black and red beach, totara and also a couple of cedar, from some privately owned native bush. All potted up and hopefully they will be ready to plant out next season. (Thanks Janice). The weeds are growing like heck – can we get some of their growth genes and transfer them into the native plants? The weedeater has been in action but weed spraying needs to be done once the wind dies down. Kevin & David stacking the timber for the new steps to be built around the kanuka tree. The idea is to keep the track foot traffic off the kanuka roots. It’s been good to hear a pair of pigeons return – haven’t heard or seen them for some months. The falcon is still resident – is it the culprit? While the harrier pair drift about on the thermals. A pair of tui feed on the tree fuchsia flowers. Not many silvereyes, not many bellbirds, not many native pigeons. Around home not many blackbirds or thrushes and the same with silvereyes. The dunnock have been wiped out by the local cats. There are less starlings fighting over the nesting box this Spring too. An idea for a bait station to kill wasps. Reuse and cut down a milk type container, screw the cap to a tree, cut the container to shape and then screw it into the cap on the tree. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Not a lot this month but a mixed bag. One mouse, two rats and a hedgehog. No sign of any wekas though I hear them calling at times. further up the valley. Have stopped the bird feeder for the present with there being plenty of flowers about. Not seen any kereru, but heard one flying out of sight among the trees somewhere. Quite a few quail still in residence and ducks still arriving each day for their hand out of mixed grain. All for now, Regards, Alastair Alison Nicholl Reports: For this month 1 rat 2 mice and one pin nicked by...
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Local Ambles during Winter

Visiting Haulashore Island   It’s an island now but it seems that in the early days of the 1840’s, it was an island only at high tide. It is the southern most bit of the Boulder Bank protecting Nelson harbour and to make an entrance for sailing ships to the Nelson Port  safer, a channel through the Boulder Bank was cut and it opened in 1906. The Cut, as this channel is called, has been widened and deepened to accommodate logging and other ships coming and going to the port today.  Setting sail through The Cut. At the old shipping entrance to the harbour is the Fifeshire Rock (and reef) and before The Cut was opened, a number of sailing ships came to grief on the rock, one being the immigrant ship Fifeshire on 27th February 1842. I had read somewhere that this was the ship’s maiden voyage but fortunately  the ship was on its way out after unloading its passengers when it ran aground on the rock. I guess the captain thought otherwise though. The practice of early captains in hauling their boats up for cleaning and then floating them off again on the tide gave a good reason for naming the island as “Haulashore”. Fifeshire Rock with snow capped Ben Nevis on the skyline. We caught the ferry across to Haulashore Island, landed, had lunch and then walked around it. It didn’t take too long but there are some interesting things to see. One is a memory plaque to Alexander  Moncrieff, the son of Captain Moncrieff and his wife Perrine. They donated part of Haulashore Island to the people of Nelson in their son’s memory, as unspoiled as a place where Nelson children could play’.  Perrine Moncrieff was an interesting person. She had a real interest in nature and observing native birds and in 1923 she was one of the founding members of the NZ Native Bird Protection Society which later became the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society NZ of today.  From the island looking towards Mt Arthur. Perrine was pretty special to me as in my early days, around 1944 to 1950 odd, there weren’t any books on New Zealand birdlife. Except for one!  New Zealand Birds & How to Identify Them  by Perrine Moncrieff of which the first edition came out in 1925. My dad bought an early edition and over the years, I just about...
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Early Spring

I had the odd  bike ride, one along the Waimea Inlet Estuary, one to Brightwater and the another to Wakefield. The tide was coming in on the Inlet ride, very still and bright blue sky but a chilly morning.  Not many water birds were about except for some oystercatchers and the odd duck.   A running marathon was in progress so it was to keep ahead or let them pass.  Brightwater Primary School about to do some native planting by the Waimea River. On the ride out to Brightwater, just over the cycle swing bridge, we came upon a school class from Brightwater Primary, busy helping to plant native shrubs along the river bank. It was good to see and also their mode of travel too. By pushbike. There were several classes involved this day, one class after another throughout the day. We passed one class on the way and while I dodged the puddles in the road, nearly everyone in the class rode their bikes through every puddle they past! It was good to see and much more positive than just protesting and waving banners around.   Along Out Wakefield  Way: another bike ride was out to Wakefield along the cycle trail passing the old Knapp house at Spring Grove. Built around1852 by James & Ellen Knapp and it appears to be in fair repair after all those years. I took a photo of the house in 1979  and it doesn’t look much different 40 years later except there’s more rust on the roof! It seems it is used to store hay now (and James and Ellen don’t live there anymore).   Knapp’s house 1979. Knapp’s house 2019. The bike trail follows the back country road, through some fine totara’s, a stream, then we pass the historic church on the hill to coast down into the village of Wakefield. On a wall of one shop facing the main highway is a mural depicting the early days of the district. It even included a steam engine, alas, all a memory now.  Wakefield shop side mural. Coming into Brightwater on the way back we passed the old Newman homestead. I think anyway. At the back was an old barn type structure along with a hay loft which I guess might have fed the horses of Newman Brothers. The brothers started in around 1876 with a horse and dray, to become a nationwide bus company....
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Winter Months

The Book Fair The once a year second hand book fair held at the Founders park is always interesting. Maybe it is more in anticipation as one never knows what you might find.  I usually head straight for the UK book tables to see if there are any books on ole England, especially of Cumberland history and such. Also of interest is British nature writings, not lists of their native animals but their feelings of the natural world and the open spaces in those early days. Here we have protests about land and colonisation but what they have been through is nothing compared to my ancestors. Many invasions, destruction, rape, slavery and pillage by foreigners, almost continual scrapping with other nearby clans, tribes, and kingdoms, not to mention famines and plagues! Every treaty or agreements broken. My native language gone. This is all well into the past and now is the present. It is good to know certainly but, maybe strangely by today’s ‘standards’, I have or feel no animosity to this past.   On Rabbit Is looking over Rough Is with Mt Arthur in the distance. Richmond Hills Walk Shirl & I lead our 50+ walking group for a month and our first walk was out in the Richmond Hills. We all met at the start of the Jimmy Lee Track, past the bird hide, over Cypress Road then turned off the main track into the Upper Jimmy Lee. This section is through all good native bush but the track is almost a route with some parts a little difficult for some. Upward to the Matai Ridge, a spot which is quite special. A large matai stands sentinel near the base of the ridge and I guess most of its offspring cover the ridge as smaller specimens. In fifty or sixty years time these younger matais will transform the ridge similar to walking through a cathedral of columns.  We had morning tea upon the on top of the ridge. After we continued on to Fowler Road and then went into the Top Jimmy Lee, through some pines to the top ridge and along to the fire lookout for lunch. A weka came along looking for a free food handout. It was quite tame or perhaps aggressive in this endeavour as one had to be careful with any food in the hand. It readily took any offered food from ones hand.  Any...
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July 2019

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: One rat and two possums. Continuing the vandalised bird feeder story: Yes the “Loose Bowled Bandit” has been re-cycled. Setting up the game camera proved that not only the unknown culprit was a possum, but showed it was visiting the bird feeder just on dusk. Will Reports: Kevin and I have been steadily working away on improving the walking track over the last month. Some time has been spent on removing old plant protection sleeves. The harder green plastic ones seem to get brittle and break up as they age and we don’t want little bits of plastic spread around. Kevin checks out the work done on track improvements on the Holly Steps the other day. Will taking a rest. Thank you to Brent & Bud for their donation of some trees for the gully. A number of the rat traps have been knocked around, dislodged and baits stolen by the wekas. Food must be getting short for them and they have plenty of time to peck about on the tunnels trying to get either the bait or a caught mouse or rat. Number native trees planted this season is 626 so far. This has consisted of 92 from TDC; 45 from Richard Farrar; 24 from Ross; 92 from Georgina Pahl; some from Karla & Alison and the rest from Kevin and me. Plus of course the trees via Brent and Bud’s donation. Kevin also supplied some potting mix and bought some beech trees. Graph of Visitors Using the Tracks This from TDC, shows the number of people per month using the tracks in the Richmond Hills for Easby Park (the most used); one of the bike tracks; Jimmy Lee Creek and Hill Street South (our gully tracks). Nearly all our working visits are not recorded as we go via private property – so there has been a good number of visits not recorded! It does show how popular these tracks are though. And the need for more protection in the native gullies, especially to keep them in their natural state. Total Catches for July: 15 mice; 3 rats; 2 possums. Thanks to the Gully Volunteer team, KRB, Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter, Ewing’s Poultry, Mainly Natives, & Sarah & Rick...
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June 2019

Will Reports: The Problem of Dog Owners: Most dog owners let their dogs run free up the gully and I mean free – running through the bush many metres from them. They are definitely not ‘under control’ and pity any weka that happen to be nearby. They also cut corners along the track, knocking about any plants in their way and scare smaller children no matter what size the dog. Then there is the owner who throw their doggy bag into the bush along the track. We came across a ‘lady’ trying to call in her wildly running dog and when reminded that there were weka nearby (protected wildlife), she said her dog didn’t chase wekas and he was only a few months old. (??) She then said it didn’t matter as there were plenty of weka about anyway. The plant puller is at it again! Eight to ten newly planted natives on Grassy Saddle have been pulled out and thrown aside. The same problem we have had a little while ago and is it the same person doing this? We will probably install a camera to try and find out who is doing this stupid act. The drought has been hard enough on the plants without this carryon! And then we found that some druggie has been puffing away and leaving his ‘goods’ behind. Magpies Heard: To top off this lot of moaning, while re-planting on Grassy Saddle Kevin and I heard a couple of magpies calling higher up in the pines. Crikeydick, what with errant dogs, deranged plant pullers, druggies and now magpies! Should we just give up, stay at home and sulk? But Now the Good News! Georgina (of Mainly Natives) sent this: Hi Will, I FINALLY got myself on your track this week – I had a fabulous loop walk from Jimmy Lee around and out your gully. A gorgeous day to view all your hard work! It’s looking amazing with some interesting plant communities getting a good foothold. Now that I have discovered this walk I will do it more often :)….I noticed that there was some underplanting in the bush just below Grassy Saddle – looked like matai – that had all died (presumably from the dry). If you’d like to try some more, let me know – I have plenty. Got spare totara too. Cheers, Georgina. Thank you Georgina, we will be...
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May 2019

Will Reports: We have been busy working on installing new steps at the Fossil Steps, now completed. Thanks to David, Kevin and Bryan with help from neighbour Peter Wilks too. We also cleared some storm damage down at McGlashin’s Dam. A couple of trees had fallen down with one over the handrail by the dam and another over the decking nearby. A couple of trees fell across the McGlashen’s Dam in a recent storm and have been cleared. Collected 92 plants donated by TDC and we have planted them all; Richard Farrar donated and helped with planting out 17 kowhai and 7 cabbage trees; Kevin’s friend Ross donated 18 kowhai’s plus 6 renga renga’s; from Karla, 1 flax plus about 50 dianella. Which all come to around 257 natives planted so far this season. We have been re-staking some plants and also taking away older green sleeves that have served their purpose and taking out the odd vine and gorse pest weeds. We even had to hedge trim some of the bushes that were growing over the track – a bit of a novelty at this stage! Shirl’s traplines – nil catches; my traplines – 2 rats. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Less activity this past month. Four rats in all. One extremely black one. (After the large whitish one last month). Quail family have moved on, presumably to their winter quarters. At least 4 Wekas in the immediate area. One juvenile has become quite tame turning up pretty well every evening at 5 for a “hand out”. Mostly kitchen scraps with a preference for meat. Bell birds and tuis quite common at bird feeder. At least 2 rabbits in the area. I must admit I quite like to see the odd one about. Not so the possum I have seen about a couple of times and – so far – have not been able trap. About all for now. Regards, Alastair. Bryan Riley Reports: No catches for May. David walks up the Fossil Steps reconstruction. Alison Nicholl Reports: May catches – 5 mice; 1 rat. I think my catches recorded are below what is actually caught – for example on the 11th I had at least 8 traps dragged to the far end of the tunnels but no visible sign of what was caught for the Weka to get hold of. The plastic trap you gave me to...
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A Week on Molesworth Station

The road on the Rainbow at Hell’s Gate. We travelled to Molesworth via the Rainbow Valley road and through Rainbow Station. There has been a recent change of ownership but it is still a toll road with a steep increase in the toll; now $40 per car, one way. The road was in the worst condition that I’ve seen it.  Very rough especially around the Hell’s Gate area. It’s a real pity this road isn’t an open public road and maintained to a good standard as it’s almost a direct route from Nelson to Christchurch. It is public land too but leased. We read about people wanting to make new roads through wilderness areas; (Heaphy Track and Milford etc) but what’s wrong with the Rainbow? Keep Out of the Rainbow! Molesworth: the largest station in New Zealand of about 180,787 ha, with the largest herd of cattle  too (10,000 head), owned by the public and run by the Department of Conservation. A road runs through the station, linking Hanmer and Blenheim which is open to the public during the summer period. It has a DoC camp ground at each end and the campgrounds are monitored by rangers to make sure people pay their camp fees, collecting rubbish, cleaning toilets and generally assisting campers and through traffic. I joined Karla in giving a hand at the Hanmer Springs end, at Acheron. The old Acheron Accommodation House. The last time we came, the bridge across the Clarence was closed as one of its approaches had been washed away, but it’s all okay now. Our ranger’s hut was nearby the old, partly restored Acheron Accommodation House and within the camping area. The ranger’s hut is quite small, has a shower, gas hob and frig, plus a couple of beds, sink, table and such. Pretty compact but not very well laid out. What it did have though was a wood burner!  The view from Mt Isobel looking down on Hanmer. The next day we headed back on the road to Hanmer Springs but stopped on the way to climb Mt Isobel of 1342m. The track is a bit rough and through scrub at the start but soon one comes out along an exposed ridge, gradually climbing up to the steeper parts.  Once on the main rocky ridge there are good views of the area around Hanmer Springs township. It was late Autumn so...
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April 2019

Will Reports:  Early in April more weed-eating and spraying was done in prep for planting later during the winter. Some work done in removing old green sleeves around older plants and clearing some of the service tracks too. The Hart Creek steps were completed and a start on replacing and sorting out the Fossil Steps; all this work being done by David Burt of KRB, and Kevin Piper, Bryan Riley & grandson Cole of the Gully Group. First it was lugging the timber in and then helping with the construction. A large flax clump was donated by Alison Nicholls, and after it was cut up, 50 smaller flax clumps were planted out with help from Kevin, and Karla. The flax are used for some wind protection besides providing food for the birdlife. During the last week of the month, Kevin and I planted about 50 – 55 native replacements all up at Grassy Saddle. We have lost some more trees even though a week ago they seemed to have survived the dry period. It appears that rimu, kahikatea and red beech don’t do to well on the dryer rocky parts. These species, plus the likes of totara and matai, have been planted among our plantings, using these as ‘fosters’ for the forest type trees that hopefully will grow up above them in time. Just like how it happens in the natural world. Thirteen rats caught this month, the most for quite awhile. I think most of the gully rats that are left are the courteous ones – You know, the type that says ‘You go first’. Up the gully and more work on the Fossil Steps. Another stage to sort out later. Then we installed a seat further up the track. This is Memorial Corner as, if you look up on the right going uphill, you will see a miro growing. This tree is in memory of June Clark and nearby is a totara, which is in memory of Jim Nicoll. Jim grew many totara plants for us over a number of years.  So stop and have a rest on the seat, and you won’t be lonely. Memory Seat. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Total for the month: 4 rats & 3 hedgehogs. Quite a few wekas about. One I catch repeatably and let go again of course. Slow learner! Tuis & bellbirds all day at the bird feeder....
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Wanderings on the Way Home

Wanaka What a strange place it is now from when I first wandered by. At least it does have a shopping area. Retrograde ‘progress’ with all the expanding houses scattered right out to Hawea Flat. From my observations many small towns have simply burst their boundaries with no forward planning at all. With all the talk of conserving the world, why are there so many so called life style blocks? It seems to me to be an extravagant waste of land conservation wise.  Lake Wanaka after leaving Makarora. I remember an old saw miller telling me once that a local couple wanted rimu for their new house so he sourced a supply for them.  A couple of years later another couple nearby wanted to build a house using rimu but the first couple protested and stopped them using rimu.  Now it’s reasonable not to use rimu like this, but it seems to many, it’s ok for me but not anyone else. The same sort of thinking goes for large sections? ….  Councils seem to be intent of these subdivisions to garner taxes for their little empires?  Bendigo One has to really look to find Bendigo and the historic and scenic reserves nearby. They are more historic but well worth seeking out. It was gold that they found here in 1862 and the remains of their workings and huts are scattered around. Once the alluvial gold was taken they started digging so here and there are abandoned mine shafts. The remains of the old miners stone huts seem to appear whenever one looks closer along the gully sides. Most have maybe one or two walls left standing but there are also some that mainly just have the roof missing. Pengally Hotel is in a similar state. I think it is a shame that DOC doesn’t keep things properly maintained. At least stop any further deterioration to the stone work and other relics like the old drays.   Logantown relics, Bendigo area. Pengally Hotel, Bendigo area. This is the country where the ‘world famous’ sheep Shek wandered about and he must have had some good hiding places to evade being rounded up and shorn like the rest of the flock. Grape vines creep up higher to this area than before and one wonders how they can survive in such dry rocky country. Water  from our reducing supply pumped up to them I guess. ...
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March 2019

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Better results this past month with 11 mice, 5 rats & 1 hedgehog. Family of quail still around with the seven “little bumble bees” now the size of their mother. Recent guests from France were amazed that they had been able to see such a variety of bird life so close to the Richmond CDB: quail, wekas, pigeons, tuis, bell birds, wax eyes, hawks, a pheasant, fan tails, plus the more common ones. And a rabbit on the front lawn. Alison Nicholl Reports: This month; 2 rats 1 mouse. Sad to see some dead shrubs after the BIG DRY! This week I did see some tiny green bits on the dead looking Silver Fern – so all is not lost. I have also seen and heard Tui, Bellbird, Fantail and blackbirds singing up there. Bryan Riley Reports: No catches for March. Whiteywoods ‘touched’ by the drought. Will Reports: Looks like the drought has broken at last and we can get back up the gully to continue our work. We certainly have lost a number of plants but it’s not as bad as we thought. Some of the larger beech trees have succumbed though which is disappointing.  A lot of releasing of plants have already done the last couple of weeks so a good start in readiness for replanting in a month or so.   One interesting thing is the number of Asian wasp nests that we have found inside the green spray guards. Some were found very close to another, sometimes less than a metre apart. Apparently no border disputes between them! Are they this plentiful due to the drought?   The photo shows a patch of Whiteywoods ‘touched’ by the drought but after the recent rain, some green shoots have appeared so maybe they will...
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Visiting An Old Hunting Ground

It was to be a fixed wing fly-in with Karla and friend Alan, to wander around some of the places that I had hunted fifty three to fifty seven years to ago. Unfortunately, Alan withdrew due to a family illness. After the long drive down we arrived at the Makarora Tourist Centre at the head of Lake Wanaka, were welcomed by the owner, Rhondda Osmers, then checked with pilot Ryan of Southern Alps Air about our flight the next day. Then we settled into one of the A-Frame cabins for the night. I first came to work on Mt Albert Station, across the Makarora River in 1962. I was employed as a carpenter but also helped with the general station work; mustering, docking and such like. In those days there was no power, all gravel winding roads with fords (small streams flowing across the roads) and always that river. In good weather an old ex army GMC truck or a tractor was used to cross the Makarora. If the river was too deep for them, a dray and horse; if too deep for that, just one of the station horses and if it was too deep and swift for a horse – that was it, no access to the outside world. It didn’t seem bad at all, one just went with the flow, or just watched it! With any real emergency one of the local jet boats could be called upon. The road through to the upper West Coast didn’t open until late 1965.   It was when working on Mt Albert that I first met Dave Osmers. He had a sort of shop or shelves stocked with various items that one could buy off him and he also bought venison, velvets, sinews and such like. It didn’t take long before Dave asked if I could give him a hand with shooting deer on ‘his’ hunting blocks on Mt Albert Station. He hunted all the way up the Wilkin, Young, and the Makarora river flats. Over the years I came down a number of times to do some carpentry work on the Station and to work with Dave, commercial hunting, over the roar period. I remember him once enthusiastically saying, ‘let’s get a hundred stags this roar’. I can’t remember if we did or not but we did shoot a lot anyway. In the gaps with the hunting I...
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February 2019

Will Reports:  The dry continues and as access to the tracks have been closed due to the fire risk, we haven’t been able to do any work up the gully. The trap lines have only been checked once this month and then we noticed a huge leaf fall, stressed plants, and the bush was very open due to many lower shrubs and small plants dead or dying.  Hopefully, things won’t be as bad as in the photo. This is a section of plantings along the Great Taste Trail just over the swingbridge on the West side of the river heading towards Brightwater.  Not a pretty sight! What a shame, especially with all the volunteer effort around the district that has been spent trying to make improvements. A small team did manage to finish repairing the steps going up from the creek crossing before the track closure though. Non conservation work but a great help to the increasing number of people using the track. It’s really disappointing that any genetic research on pests has been stopped by the government. If they had to service traps year after year, after year…….maybe they would think differently? Trapping is only temporary until science can figure out a solution.  Dropping poisons, in anyones language is not good long term, surely. Heavens above, just how much has been spent on research to date? Never mind more ‘occupational’ research, how about some solutions?  Perhaps the minister for conservation could do something like this: It was reported many years ago a Reverend was walking in a meadow and observed a number of rats migrating from one place to another. He stopped still and watched as they passed by. He was surprised when he saw an old blind rat, which held a piece of stick at one end in its mouth, while another rat had hold of the other end of the stick, and thus conducted its blind fellow along with the other rats.  Now this has possibilities. Why not train some rats to do this to lead their mates into the hands of the SPCA (where they can euthanise (kill) or de-sex as they please). Non genetic and better than throwing poison about? Alastair Mackintosh Reports: One rat for the month is all. Am feeding and supplying water for the 15 or so quail that have become quite tame here. Pleased to see that one mother started with 7 little “bumble bees”, and a month later still had 7. Better results than what is normal. To me that shows that the trapping is paying...
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The Start of 2019

The Terracotta Warriors and Weta Workshop Visits We had three days visiting Wellington city in January, with the aim to have a look through the Weta Workshop (of Lord Of The Rings fame) and to also visit some of the Terracotta Army being displayed at the Museum of New Zealand.  After an early arrival and getting settled into our motel, we caught a bus and headed out to the Weta Workshop complex. To get this far one has to book onto one of the six or so tours, which vary from $28 to $145 for an adult. We chose the more modest Weta Cave Workshop Tour at $65. It was enough for me and it covered much of how they made all the different items for the various films; from monsters, medieval armour, swords and the like, models, and, well, just about anything really. The attention to the detail on any item made was really impressive. Some 48,00 items were made for The Lord of the Rings, 6623 weapons and armour were crafted for The Great Wall film, and I like the comment that the swords made looked real enough but as actors soon got tired if they had to swing the real things around so they made them a lot lighter. Apparently, the Queen’s people heard of this and now if you happen to watch the Queen bestowing a knighthood on someone, it just might be one of those lighter swords made by Weta Workshop! In all it was interesting but just over priced I feel.  The Terracotta Warriors craftsmen could easily get a job at Weta Workshops I’d say. The eight life sized 2300 years old warriors, part of 8000 or so sculptures of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, were on display at the Museum of New Zealand so we went and had a look. Every sculpture was different, perhaps replicating the men in the army? It did make me wonder if each soldier was copied from real life, what happened to the living after? They may have been substitutes instead of being made a sacrifice  but if I was one of them, I’d be a little nervous after my ‘duplicate’ was finished! Also on display were many other items, made of gold, jade and bronze too. The detail on each item was really something special. One really needs to stop awhile, not 2000...
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January 2019

Will Reports:  Throughout December, besides the trapping, we have mostly been attending to releasing plants and lot of spraying plus work with the weedeater, trying to keep the weeds at bay. In January 2019 Kevin & I have finished repairing the steps rising from the Hart Creek crossing, combining with Keep Richmond Beautiful’s David Burt. See the end result on the Facebook page.  Kevin had a good idea regarding the transport (lugging) all the timber up to the creek by posting a sign at the start of the track asking anyone passing to carry up pieces of timber to the creek. It worked! A number of people did so and some even going backwards and forwards. All the timber was up within a half an hour! Space was fairly tight plus with the numbers of walkers passing; so we only had a small working team. Kevin’s sign. Some days later we trudged up the track with our working tools and started on the steps. David came a little later with some women folk who were helping him carry up his tools. Kevin asked what did David have that he and I didn’t. He only received some laughter from the women before they carried on with their walk.  – So we still don’t know! The recent strong winds have blown over a number of plants and also a couple of previously ringbarked hawthorn trees across the walking track. Shirl & I have cleared the hawthorns from the tracks. (You can check out our progress on Facebook). Diseased Kawakawa below Grassy Saddle. The photo is of a Kawakawa just below Grassy Saddle so it looks as if the disease is spreading. This is a great pity as there are some very good old specimens growing there and it will be a shame to see them die. Alastair Mackintosh Reports:  Hi Will. Another slow month December. Two hedgehogs & one rat. A very large male. Do not seem to be any wekas about at the moment. Hope they have just moved elsewhere in function of what is around in the way of food.  February: Nothing much to report with regards to trapping this past month. Traps all still set, but no signs of much activity. Tuis, as always, still present, bell birds less so. Quite a bit of activity regarding Kereru and I am pretty sure a couple have nested again in a conifer down my drive way.  For the third consecutive season. Large numbers of fantails about and by the sounds of increased calling, the wekas...
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December 2018

Alastair Mackintosh Reports:  Hi Will. Not a lot again this past month. One rat and two hedgehogs. Both hedgehogs in the same trap as last month and with out moving it. That makes 9 from the same area in two months! As I said previously, what chance would a ground nesting bird have of successfully hatching a brood of eggs in that locality! I am quite convinced they are a much under-estimated predator. The pigeon that flew into the window sat with no sign of life for several minutes. Then if touched it would give a slight tremor. It eventually came to life and gradually started walking away with a pronounced limp. Then after a short distance took to wing. We have not seen it, nor any sign of it, since. One can only hope for the best. Not a lot of wekas calling at the moment, though they do seem to move move about a bit. The ducks, quail and pheasants still around and quite common, so all in all, things not too bad. Regards to all, Alastair. Bryan Riley Reports: Hi Will, Have not caught any critters in the traps in November!  Have put cheese on the traps this time as well as peanut butter so hope this will attract them? Also added apple to the opossum traps! A pair of pheasant on the way up. Alison Nicholl Reports: Total caught for the month = 1 rat. I also have lost one tunnel, trap and all from behind the information panel in Will’s Gully. Extensive searches have not located it. (Will’s comment: Another stolen or maybe added to the weka treasure chest?? I did have a look too but couldn’t find anything so stolen for sure.) Mike Olive Reports: Good news – I shifted my cage trap into the open and catch a female ‘other’ but nothing else caught. John Wilson Reports: Checked traps this month but nothing caught although did see 2 or 3 wekas. NZ flax flowers about to burst out. Will Reports:  Not a lot done this month as have been busy catching up with things at home and Kevin’s gone wandering. Did check some traps a couple of times and had a couple of track patrols. Once after some rain and with heaps of branches overhanging one section of track, did some pruning and got quite wet in the process. No wonder any track walker was...
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November Travels

Kaikoura Visit (5th – 9th November) Early November we joined our walking group for five days visiting Kaikoura. We headed off through to Pelorus, but stopped for a coffee there, then on to Blenheim and out to Ward Beach for lunch. Before the earthquake of 2016, we had visited and stayed at Ward Beach and watch people launch their boats with the aid of bulldozers. Not now though as the earthquake seemed to have lowered the beach while pushing up other areas. It was hard to remember what it was like but I didn’t see any bulldozers on the beach this time. After lunch we had a short walk along the beach to the south. The earthquake of November 2016 certainly changed a lot of landscape on the way to Kaikoura.  My car gps gadget didn’t have any speed limits noted on this section of the road as there were a number of hold ups, but not for long. The earthquake destruction of this highway and railway was massive but the recently re-opened road (and railway later) still had road working machines and people galore, in action at various places along the route.  Shipping containers lined some sections of the road for the protection from falling rocks but generally, the road was pretty good.  Some parts of this coast was raised more than six metres and a drop of more than two metres in others. Some land was shifted horizontally as much as twelve metres along one fault and vertically as much along another. Nearby Cape Campbell is now 350mm closer to the North Island while back near home, Nelson slipped 50mm South East!  This doesn’t sound much – unless you are standing on the actual spot.  We stopped at Ohau which had some major road works done and still underway. Before the earthquake, one could walk a track beside the stream to a waterfall with a pool at its base in which young seals frolicked around while waiting for their mothers to return. Now it appears that the young seals wait out among the rocks along the sea shore at Ohau. A new car park and view point  had been formed from which it seemed as if we could see hundreds of seals about the rocks. All shapes and sizes and thinking that if each seal ate a number of fish each day, there must be a lot...
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November 2018

Will Reports: This month some time spent going over the rat traps and tunnels doing a major cleanup. Most have now been done but the DOC150’s and DOC200’s still to do. Planting update: Still some late planting of kakabeak (seed from Mike Oliver), a couple of flax, Kevin’s 19; of coprosma & hebe which brings the total planted for this season to 1049 – the most ever that we have planted in one year. More weed spraying (45 litres) along the tracks and over the boundary fence and with Simon Rayward’s efforts doing the same (on his side though!) we are pretty well up to-date with this. This recent Spring rain will certainly hurry the weeds along though. The Bottoms Track Sign: Now and then some of our track signs get interfered with and recently The Bottoms track signs have had the S’s blacked out! A funny name? Well, the story behind it (didn’t intend that) is that when we were clearing the weeds and the area being very steep in many places, I ended up sliding down quite a number of times on – well, you guessed it… So leaving out the adjectives on the way down, we were left with The Bottoms! The Scullery? Nothing dramatic here except in the clearing of weeds we used this spot for morning tea and such. And then I found a couple of sheep skulls so I hid them nearby. Later when taking my grandkids for a wander we played the game of hot and cold – to find the ‘treasure’. When that game cooled I tied the skulls to the tree above where we stopped for our tea breaks. Later it just so happened that we made the Top Track pass directly under the tree with the skulls. It seemed right to name the place The Scullery! I was given some more skulls and fixed these to the tree too but unfortunately someone stole them! When working away in the bush and hearing children voices coming along the track, I can always tell when they have reached The Scullery! Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Finally caught the rat I had been aware of and had been after for a couple of weeks. I also caught 5 hedge hogs with a different type of trap, with out deplacing it, and with the same bait (a chicken neck) That I was able to...
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I’m Just Wondering – Am I One of the Last New Zealanders?

I suppose that it’s since the election that has brought it to the fore plus all this Kiwi stuff,  but thinking back over the years, it seems to me that we are going backwards. Oh, for sure there are many that are sitting pretty but it appears to be at the expense of others and the majority at that. We used to have a democracy but  that’s now long gone.  Years ago there were many who protested against apartheid but now they think that’s okay here now? Going back many more years, they said that with progress, we would be working four day weeks but now for a household, it’s the norm for two adults to work full-time five days a week, sometimes even more and they are scratching to save. In those older days, it was just one person who earned enough to support a family – nothing like today.   A forty hour week was the law, except it wasn’t quite in 1962 (when working on an orchard Mapua, Nelson. It was 44hrs there, even though the law said it was 40 hours everywhere else). Maybe they just took a while to catch up with the rest of the country? We were told that computers would cut costs and save a lot of work so why have costs risen and the hours of work?  Why is it that indigenous races seem to think that they are the only ones to have an attachment to nature and the wild lands?  I can recall, thinking, soon after leaving school, that all of New Zealand should be a National Park! My theory was that instead of us trying to protect wild places from speculators and the like, have them spending time trying to withdraw their properties from the National Park. It is interesting to note that in the UK some of their national parks are indeed similar to this.  Why do I have an affinity with the natural world? Is it the freedom? The space? Once you get away from the huts of course – and it’s not raining! Just who can ‘own’ a mountain? Or a river? Or a lake? Will these  people soon claim ownership of clouds, sunshine or the raindrops? Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that? But then if they claim to own a river, what if it floods? Are the ‘owners’ liable for any damage done?  I...
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